Tag Archives: design

Plants for late summer colour

By the time I get to August I’m looking around for plants that’ll add some late summer colour into the garden. Annuals provide a much needed splash of colour but I often miss my spring sowing window and need something that will come back year after year. So I’ve complied my own shortlist of top ten plants that’ll add some colour to your late summer borders:

  1. Anenome ‘Honorine Jobert’ (Perfect for shade)
    Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' - suburban-gardenFor me this is the perfect plant for brightening up shady places in the garden and especially our immediate borders at the back of the house. This Japanese anemone has been flowering since July and will continue to right into September. ‘Honorine Jobert’ prefers to be planted in cool, shady areas otherwise it is liable to run at a quicker pace than usual. It can also be used a cutting flower.
  2. Geranium oxononium ‘Wageningen’ (Perfect for sun)
    Geranium oxononium 'Wageningen' - suburban-gardenSalmon-pink flowers with darker pink veining provide plenty of ground cover above mid-green leaves from June to August. Flowers fade to paler shades as they age. This hardy geranium does scramble but is not as vigorous as some varieties and is not prone to mildew. At first I wasn’t sure of the colour because it is bright but on dull days it really does light up a flowerbed.
  3. Heuchera’Caramel’ PVR (Perfect for shade and partial shade)
    Heuchera 'Caramel' PVR - suburban-gardenHeuchera ‘Caramel’ makes this list because of its beautifully sandy, limey and apricot foliage. I love the different shades of leaves that come from just one plant and this is complemented by peachy-red stems and undersides to the leaves. This plant does produce delicate spikes of cream flowers from May to August but it is the range of colours on the foliage that attracts my attention. I find that larger heuchera plants tend to be less susceptible to snail or slug attacks. It is just getting them to a more substantial size that requires patience and watchfulness. This heuchera has been planted with gritty compost and some plant food granules in a planter, in full shade for over a year now and feels like a perfect fit.
  4. Persicaria ‘Indian Summer’ ( Perfect for sun/part shade)
    Persicaria 'Indian Summer' - suburban-gardenI’m always on the lookout for unusual and intriguing plants and this is certainly one. Persicaria ‘Indian Summer’ came from Cally Gardens and produces small bunches of deep pink flowers from July through to September. However the real gem is the spectacularly blotchy, red leaves that go slightly purple in full sun and turn people’s heads. It is hardy but I cover it with bark chipping or spent crocosmia leaves at the base before winter as the foliage dies back during the winter.
  5. Inula barbata (Perfect for partial shade)
    Inula barbata - suburban-garden Inula barbata is really easy to grow and will provide fast-growing groundcover.  Yellow, finely-petalled daisies flower from July to August above hairy green leaves and stems almost reminding me of a lion’s mane. This plant is good at attracting pollinators but prefers to be in the soil rather than in containers. Just cut this plant back in the spring to promote new growth. This is another plant that can be used for cut flowers.
  6. Crocosmia ‘Emberglow’ (Perfect for sun)
    Crocosmia 'Emberglow' - suburban-gardenIn the early morning light you really get a sense of the richness in colour of Crocosmia ‘Emberglow’. The flowers are predominantly  a crimson red colour tinged with orange at the throat just like glowing embers. The flowers also unusually point downwards. ‘Emberglow’ is not as vigourous as ‘Lucifer’ but it does command a substantial prescence in the garden. I think the green sheafs of foliage are a beautiful vibrant green. This variety is suitable for cutting, is really easy to grow even in large pots and is wildlife friendly. The foliage will disappear during the winter but will reappear in the spring.
  7. Sedum populifolium (Perfect for sun)
    Sedum populifolum - suburban-gardenBeautifully fragrant cream flowers emerge from August to September above fleshy green multi-pointed leaves. Sedum populifolium is a slow-growing, woody plant that loses its leaves in the winter but they will come back in the spring. It is unique and I’m really taken with the texture of the leaves and the rich scent. The flowers just look like a mass of tiny stars. Never seen a plant quite like this before.
  8. Hakonechloa macro ‘Aureola’ (Perfect for sun/part shade)
    Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' - suburban-gardenGrasses are useful sources of green throughout the growing season and more so when like many they are variegated. Halonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ has this beautiful golden green foliage that sweeps down providing the overriding interest. Although very fine flower spikes do appear it is the leaves that command attention. Use this plant as a soft edging to paths or borders or grow in large pots. Really easy to grow. The foliage just needs to be cut back in the spring and a light mulch applied. This plant will die back in the winter.
  9. Phlox paniculata ‘David ‘ ( Perfect for sun/part shade)
    Phlox panniculata 'David' - suburban-gardenPhloxes remind me of my childhood garden in summer especially with their dusky summer scents. I’m starting to collect quite a few varieties in my garden now but one of the ones that stands out is Phlox paniculata ‘David’. I planted it last year in partial shade nestled between two shrubs and this year it really has exploded. Abundant heads of pure white flowers have only just opened and should last until September. They do say that phloxes take a year or two to reach their full potential and ours certainly has. The leaves are a glorious bright green and this variety is one of the more mildew resistant types. Good variety for flower arranging and pollinating insects.
  10. Helianthus atrorubens ‘Miss Mellish’ (Perfect for sun)
    Helianthus atrorubens 'Miss Mellish' - suburban-gardenIn our garden Helianthus atrorubens ‘Miss Mellish’ is just about to open into finely quilled, yellow petals. To be fair it copes with dappled shade in the first half of the day, so I’m not surprised that it is late in flowering but it does create an amazing mass of yellow colour. This helianthus is invasive but at a steady pace and I’m happy to keep cutting it back. It can be sunk into the ground in a pot but prefers to grow directly in the ground, preferably somewhere where you don’t mind it being invasive. This plant is perfect for cut flowers and can cope in poor soil conditions.

Our garden in 2015

Back garden view - suburban-garden

Our garden is a work in progress. We started with a blank canvas albeit an overgrown, bramble and rubble infested one. To the untrained eye it still looks a mess but there is some light in among all the weeds. Every year we find that it grows more beautiful and the plants have started to grow into their surroundings.

Saying that there are some plants that refuse to flourish and these are moved to more suitable parts of the garden if possible. Slowly we are developing a greater understanding of the deep shade and extreme sun that inhabits our very long garden. The key is to work with what you’ve got rather than against it, have great patience and observe everything.

The following is a pictorial summary of the highlights from last year and includes a lot of photographs.

These are the main areas of the garden over the course of 2015 compared to two years ago when we moved in (first picture):

Most of our plants are still in pots from when we moved as we have a perennial weed problem in the form of ground elder, bindweed and grasses that needs to be minimised before we plant up our flower beds. Although this takes more time, we’ve learnt that getting rid of any problems before planting helps in the long run.

We also improve the soil when we plant by adding a combination of leaf matter, our own compost, shop-brought compost and rotted manure. I also add some sand and keep topping up the sand reserves on each bed every year to help drainage and improve root growth.

The very back of the garden was more akin to the secret garden with brambles and ivy having the run of the place. Even a massive tidy up refused to make a dent in the situation as a couple of months later the back was as overrun as before. And the discovery that we had bricks, glass and old carpets buried under the soil made clearing incredibly disheartening. This year we’ve made a concerted effort to really keep the back as clear as possible. Not only is the process of moving bricks tedious but we’ve also found that we’ve now got enough bricks to build a small shed!


2015 plant showstoppers:

It goes without saying that every flower in our garden gets photographed – at least three times during the course of the year, so these are the highlights from 2015:

Most of the geums in our garden are spring flowering and these ones prefer partial/dappled shade and really came into their own last year.

I adore the nodding heads of aquilegia plants in the spring. There’s something magical about these plants and they remind me of my Gran’s back garden that was overrun with all different variations of these plants.

Sunflowers are one of my favourite flowers. They may be showy and grow so tall that they suddenly collapse in a gentle gust of wind but they put such a smile on my face.

One of the most frustrating parts of moving is that I had to wait a whole year before these hollyhocks flowered but I was not to be disappointed. There isn’t anything better than a looking out of a window obscured by hollyhocks. The black hollyhock was incredibly long-lasting, flowering from May to November.

A host of poppies always graces our garden. Whether they are the Welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica, oriental poppies or poppies that set seed so easily these blooms produce an array of colours, shapes and textures.

And this a selection of other plants that really shone throughout the year:


2015 vegetable and fruit garden:

Last year was a mixed bag in terms of fruit and vegetables that we managed to grow in our garden. The tomatoes just kept coming right up until November and the broccoli proved to be a winner as well until it started to go straight to seed. Courgettes were brilliant until August and then they faded away rapidly. And we’ve never had such a large crop of potatoes as we did last year. 2015 was also our first year of blueberries so I’m hoping for a longer season this year.

However it wasn’t a great year for runner beans or strawberries. Both had very short seasons which was disappointing. We also tried growing leeks again which didn’t quite work out as everything went very chaotic in the summer and I forgot about them. There is one leek still vainly trying to swell up in the back garden and doing fine. But it’s just one! Still when we do eat it, I’m hoping the taste will be worth the wait.



We’ve been really lucky in that there is an abundance of wildlife that navigates the back garden boundaries. There are the usual suspects of robins, herons, hedgehogs, foxes and grey squirrels but we’ve also been privileged to see a muntjac deer, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, newts, bullfinches, goldcrests and an unidentified bird of prey.

The one sad moment from last year was the strong winds from last autumn which not only took several of our tiles and fences down but also took a humongous ash tree that was in a neighbouring garden. It created a lot of destruction in other people’s gardens by taking not only other trees and a fence down in its wake but several sheds, a summerhouse and a greenhouse.

Ash tree - suburban-gardenTo me this tree was magnificent because the great spotted woodpeckers would happily scamper all over it, tapping at the bark. Each spring I would eagerly await to hear their tapping noises and hope to be able to record their presence during the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. With the tree gone I was afraid that I wouldn’t hear the recognisable tapping sounds again. However I have been so happy these last few months as I have started to hear the woodpeckers once more and know they are still around.

Change is inevitable and I accept that in the knowledge that we will plant some ‘manageable’ trees in our own garden and just to hear that tapping sound is comfort enough.

Just by compiling this short summary of our garden last year and searching through the many photos has prompted me to think about just how much we achieved last year. This year will present its own set of challenges within the garden but I am so very grateful for this little part of tranquility that we are looking after.


How to plan a garden

View of old garden - suburban-garden

Our old garden.

Planning a garden, especially if you’re starting with a blank canvass, is an effective way of working out how and what to do with the space you’ve been given. That like most things is easier said than done and I struggled to put down on paper what I could visualise in my head.

One of our many projects next year is to sort out the very back of the garden. When we moved house next year we inherited a garden that had been much loved once upon a time. Therefore our gardening this year has been more reactive, trying to keep brambles at bay, rather than proactive.

We always knew this would be a long term project but somehow lost sight of this especially when remembering our old garden. We almost lost the enjoyment of ‘waiting.’ And that’s what I’m going to endeavour to get back next year.

Before image of back of garden - suburban-garden

Our overgrown garden at the start of November 2014.

We started by clearing the area at the beginning of November. The idea being that between now and spring, this is the perfect time for planting shrubs and trees. Also the back was a complete mess of buried old carpet, soil, bricks, breeze blocks, rusting metal and shards of glass on our side curtsey of a neighbour renewing the back boundary fence and the previous owners of our house (I spent an hour painstakingly clearing shards of glass that had been buried in soil underneath a layer of bricks).

Before we could finish it became too cold and wet but we’ve certainly made this part of the garden much more pleasant.

I’ve now started to plan what’s going to happen with the back of the garden but I need to keep remembering that gardens evolve over time. We want the back to be somewhere to sit and to have a more woodland feel to it as well as having a log-pile for hedgehogs and insects. I also want to screen the fencing which will probably be achieved by a combination of evergreen shrubs that are shade tolerant and trellis with evergreen climbers. And I want to add a couple more small trees and create a nursery bed to allow me to grow some of my plants on.plan for garden redesign - suburban-garden

I found that by putting my thoughts down on paper it became a step closer to being real. I started to work out what I really wanted to change, what I would like to change if I could and what I could live with. This helped me finalise what I wanted from this area of the garden and gave me something to work with and discuss. I’m now starting to think about the plants that would enjoy this environment and creating a list. Obviously what’s great about having a plan is that it can be changed but it gives me a place to start from.

A garden by its very nature is ‘organic’. What may grow well one year may simply wither the next. Plants you’ve put in the correct site and soil may simply disappear. Others may thrive in what you find out later are in completely the wrong place. Some plants may simply sprawl everywhere while others may grow at the pace of a snail.

Points to consider:

  • What theme are you going for?
  • What will you to use the space for?
  • Do you want colour all year round?
  • Budget?
  • How much do you want to totally change the area?
  • How much time do you have to maintain it? (more time is needed initially)

6 Top Tips

  1. Research what you want in your garden – use magazines, websites and visit gardens/show gardens (take elements that work for you, your time and your budget)
  2. Observe the conditions in your garden – soil types, where you get sun and shade (remember this also changes throughout the seasons)
  3. Draw up a list of suitable plants – (less may be more – try and be selective and keep different plants to certain areas)
  4. Draw a plan – there are online planners that may be more helpful or just use a pen and paper
  5. Ask for advice – from fellow gardeners
  6. Accept that gardens evolve

Gardening has taught me the how to be patient (plants will grow at their own rate), the value of observation and that I will keep on learning.